Friday, December 13, 2013

Healthy legs for the holidays: 5 tips for Santa Claus (and the rest of us)

Approximately half of the U.S. population has some form of venous disease, which includes (but is not limited to) varicose veins. According to Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen of the Vein Healthcare Center in Maine, there’s plenty one can do to alleviate the symptoms of vein disease and prevent them from getting worse.
While there is no proof that Santa Claus has venous disease, his job does keep him on his feet or sitting down for long periods of time. These five simple tips can help keep legs healthy this holiday season:

1. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Santa’s red suit, for example, is roomy and comfortable and wouldn’t impede circulation in his lower body.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. Shoes (or boots) with high heels can shorten the muscles in your calf and prevent deep veins from working at their full capacity. 
3. Sit properly. Focus on good posture and avoid crossing legs or sitting in ways that can compress veins for prolonged periods, such as sitting at the mall or in a sleigh.
4. Don’t smoke. Smoking (even pipe smoking) and exposure to second-hand smoke constricts veins and affects overall circulation.
5. Elevate the legs above heart-level as often as possible. Perhaps with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Can treating vein disease help RLS?

As we discussed in our last post, about 40 percent of people with RLS have problems withtheir veins, but we don’t fully understand the relationship between RLS and venous disease. Research shows that there is high correlation of patients who see their RLS resolve when they receive venous treatment

One study showed that treatment of venous reflux eliminated or significantly reduced 98 percent of a person’s RLS symptoms. (Ninety-two percent of symptoms did not return after one year.) Another study showed that 95 percent of an individual’s restless legs symptoms were reduced, and 53 percent of symptoms were completely eliminated after vein treatment. Despite this and other research, there are currently no prospective random clinical trials that show that RLS is directly related to veins.

It is worth adding that many phlebologists have found that when patients wear graduated compression stockings, their RLS symptoms improve.

There is no cure for RLS, but many treatment options are available to help manage symptoms, including long-term use of prescription medication. According to Dr. Asbjornsen, many patients in her care have expressed that treatment for venous insufficiency has completely relieved their RLS, although other patients saw no difference at all. 

Research findings and anecdotal evidence do suggest that the patients who are evaluated for restless legs syndrome would benefit from an evaluation for possible vein disease as well. 

An article in the journal Phlebology (2008;23:112-117), for example, concludes that all RLS patients should be properly evaluated for venous reflux before initiation or continuation of drug therapy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

The short answer to this question is: we’re not exactly sure. In fact, a single unifying cause of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) has yet to be established. We do know is that there are many potential causes for RLS, including pregnancy, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, not to mention medications such as antihistamines, anti-depressants, and a certain class of high blood pressure medicine.

RLS is considered a disruptive neurologic disorder, affecting approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population. It occurs in men and women, though the incidence is twice as high in women. RLS is not diagnosed through laboratory testing, but rather through evaluation of symptoms.

According to the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group, the four primary features of RLS are:
An urge to move, usually due to uncomfortable sensations that occur primarily in the legs

Motor restlessness (expressed as activity) that relieves the urge to move

Worsening of symptoms by relaxation

Variability over the course of the day-night cycle, with symptoms worse in the evening and early in the night

About 40 percent of people with RLS have problems with their veins. In our next post, we’ll discuss the possible links between venous disease and RLS.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Books about vein health

More and more, patients are turning to their computers (and mobile devices) to gather information about health-related topics. But don’t forget about “good ol’ fashioned” books! There are a number of publications that can help people make informed decisions about their leg health and overall wellness.

Published by the American College of Phlebology (ACP), Healthy Veins…Healthy Legs was written by established vein specialists around the country. The Vein Healthcare Center’s own Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen contributed the chapter about risk factors and other causes for vein problems. The book gives patients a comprehensive look at vein disease, plus practical tips for prevention and management.

Many VHC patients turn to Understanding Venous Disease to learn more. The book, written by Dr. Asbjornsen, provides an overview of venous disease, including complications and the latest procedures. It also discusses alternative and conservative treatments.
Another consumer-friendly book is Say Goodbye to Varicose Veins & Spider Veins Now! by Dr. Greg Martin, a board certified phlebologist in Georgia. The book is written in a very accessible style that’s easy to understand.

For health professionals, the third (and latest) edition of Fundamentals of Phlebology: Venous Disease for Clinicians is soon to come out. It is considered “the Bible” for phlebologists other allied healthcare professionals who incorporate venous disease treatment in their practices.
Happy reading!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alternative treatments for vein disease

For many years, most patients solely accepted the traditional Western world approach to medicine and health. A lot has changed in the last two decades. Remedies that many once regarded as “wacky,” such as acupuncture and meditation, are now quite common. Ask any kid and she can show you at least one yoga pose. There are alternatives in vein care, as well.

While there are proven, minimally invastive treatments for venous disease— endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) and sclerotherapy, chief among them— there is growing interest in the effectiveness of herbal supplements and alternative medications. 

Butcher’s broom, gotu kola and horse chestnut extract are just a few of the natural, plant-based medicines that are available over the counter. Diosmin, one citrus-based compound, is considered a “medical food” and is available with a doctor’s prescription. (We take a closer look in Vein Health News; just click on the “Women and Veins” issue and turn to page 12.)

Current research on these and other herbs is promising, but it’s important to remember that while herbal treatments may help eliminate symptoms, their benefits are limited to the period of time that the medication is being taken. They do not fix the underlying cause of the symptoms. 

Something else to note: alternative medications are not regulated in the U.S. If you are considering taking them, understand the proper dosage recommendations, risks, and side effects. Some herbal supplements can be toxic if taken improperly. Work with your doctor (ideally, a board-certified phlebologist) and stay safe!

Monday, September 30, 2013

A few more ways to ease venous symptoms at home

In our last post we discussed a number of ways to alleviate the pain and discomfort of venous disease right away. Here are four more ways to make your legs feel better and prevent the progression of symptoms.

1.  Walk. Walking causes the rhythmic contraction of calf muscles and helps promote blood flow to the heart. Walk at least 30 minutes every day – all at once, or in shorter increments. 

2.  Take a break. Take frequent walking breaks to avoid sitting or standing for periods of more than two hours.

3.  Wear compression stockings. Wearing compression stockings purchased from your pharmacy will help promote the flow of blood when you are flying, on your feet for long periods, or carrying heavy loads.

4.  Know your history. Women with a family history of vein disorders, or those who have relatives with varicose veins, should wear compression stockings during menarche and menopause, and during pregnancy – most importantly, during the first trimester.

If you are experiencing signs of venous disease, such as spider veins, or swelling or pain in the leg, considering seeking professional help. A vein specialist certified in the field of phlebology (the branch of medicine that deals with vein health and diseases) 
can evaluate your vein problems and offer a range of treatments, whether a minimally invasive procedure, or a more conservative approach.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

5 ways to ease venous symptoms at home

There are a number of treatments for venous disease (including varicose veins) that are outpatient procedures, minimally invasive, and virtually pain-free. But did you know that there are things you can do right now, on your own, to alleviate discomfort? These techniques may even help prevent the progression of symptoms.

Here are five ways to make your legs feel better:

1. Elevate. Elevate your legs above your heart – for as long as 30 minutes, or as briefly as three minutes – as often as possible. The best time is after you have been standing or after a hot shower.

2. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Avoid tight-fitting clothes around your legs and waist. It will help by not impeding circulation in your lower body.

3. Avoid high heels. High-heeled shoes shorten the muscles in the back of your leg and prevent deep veins from operating at their full capacity.

4. Sit properly. Focus on good posture and avoid crossing your legs  or sitting in ways that can compress veins for prolonged periods.

5. Don’t smoke. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke constricts veins and affects overall circulation.

These are just some of the things you can try if you are experiencing signs of venous disease. Also consider contacting a board certified phlebologist (vein specialist)  for a screening and evaluation, or to find out more about the risks, prevention, and treatment of venous disease.

If left untreated, vein issues today can possibly lead to larger medical problems tomorrow.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is it time to get a second opinion?

One way to take control of your own vein health (and overall health) is to seek a second opinion.

Second opinions are common in the field of medicine, including the area of vein health. In fact, second opinions are an essential part of effective diagnosis and treatment of venous disease.

In recent years, there have been many new developments in the treatment of varicose veins and other vein problems, and some doctors may not be familiar with minimally invasive treatment options, such as ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, or endovenous laser ablation (EVLA).

If you have been told that there is no treatment for your venous symptoms-- or, if you have been told that your venous condition will resolve itself without any intervention-- you may be a good candidate for a second opinion.

Learn more about second opinions and some of the treatment options available, and take control of your vein health!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Considering Treatment for Varicose Veins and Vein Disease? Here’s What to Expect

For those suffering from the effects of vein disease, including varicose veins, the dog days of summer are the perfect time to consider treatment.

Summer is often full of activities and busy schedules, but there is never a good reason to procrastinate when it comes to good health. Plus, if the appearance of varicose veins is a concern, scheduling an evaluation with a certified phlebologist now can allow plenty of time to learn about venous issues and review options for treatment so you’ll be able to show off your legs next summer.

Getting Started With Vein Care

A venous evaluation starts with a medical history,
physical exam, and ultrasound assessment 
Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen, founder of the Maine Phlebology Association is certified by the American Board of Phlebology and treats patients at the Vein Healthcare Center in South Portland, Maine where she cares for all levels of venous disease, including spider veins, varicose veins and venous stasis ulcers. According to Dr. Asbjornsen, proper treatment of insufficient veins starts with the first consultation: a history, physical exam, and ultrasound assessment. “Every part of the evaluation is critical to effective vein treatment,” said Dr. Asbjornsen. “I’m treating the whole patient, not just his or her legs, so it’s important to get the whole picture.”

If you are considering taking the next step toward better vein health, here’s what you can expect from your first visit:

1. Health history. Patients are asked to describe the current state of their veins, what makes their veins feel better, and how their quality of life is affected. Board certified phlebologists don’t just stop at the legs but rather review all of the patient’s systems from head to toe.

2. Other considerations. Past medical, family, and surgical histories are also taken into account, as well as a social history. Details about lifestyle— whether or not a patient smokes, runs marathons, or stands for his/her job all day, for example— are all relevant to good venous care.

3. Physical exam. The specialist will take a patient’s vital signs, then look closely at the patient’s legs and feet. The doctor will rate the patient’s level of disease and health on universal standardized scales. Vein specialists use the “CEAP classification,” which helps us categorize disease. (CEAP stands for: clinical severity, etiology or cause, anatomy, and pathophysiology.)

4. Ultrasound mapping. The veins of the lower legs are evaluated using ultrasound waves to see which veins have flow going in which direction. A healthy vein will only allow flow from the feet towards the heart. Faulty veins are often connected, and finding the “source” of the problem is a complicated, but critical, step in establishing the site where treatment should start.

5. The whole picture. Once the evaluation is complete, the whole picture should be taken into account before determining the best treatment for the patient. The doctor will present the patient with all of the potential options, including conservative treatments[]. In the end, the patient decides how he/she wants to proceed.

6. Timing.  Consultations generally take between 45 to 90 minutes, depending upon the extent of the problem and whether or not an ultrasound occurs in the same visit.

7. Pre-visit paperwork. New patients can prepare for their first consultation by filling out any required paperwork ahead of time; filling it out at the office will just delay their appointment— and other patients too.

8. Removing socks and shoes. Patients should also know that they will be asked to wear a short garment and to take off socks and shoes. Doctors need to visually inspect the patient’s legs and feet, so they must be adequately exposed.

9. Drink water. It’s also helpful for patients to drink water before the exam; hydration can cause the veins to bulge, making it easier to see the problem.

While full consultations are not free, they are partially or completely covered by most insurance companies, especially if the policy covers specialist visits. Those with Medicare and supplemental coverage usually pay no out-of-pocket expenses. So, if you’ve been considering an evaluation from a certified phlebologist, don’t wait. It’s always the right time to improve your vein health.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Achy, Heavy, Throbbing Legs? TV’s “The Doctors” Weigh in On Symptoms of Varicose Veins

In last week’s USA Weekend, “The Doctors”, known best for dispensing expert advice on their popular daytime TV show, explain why varicose veins are not just cosmetic and what you can do to prevent them.

From What You Can Do About Varicose Veins:

Start with lifestyle changes — exercising, elevating your legs and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting can help ease pain and keep veins from getting worse. In some cases, compression stockings may be needed to help with blood flow. For more severe varicose veins, there are a number of minimally invasive options that can fade or remove the vein; newer treatments use laser or radiofrequency to heat and close off the vein.

Read the full article.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Should You Be Worried About “Economy Class Syndrome”?

Concerns about blood clots as a result of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) increase during summer travel season. Blood clots can be dangerous, even fatal – but they can be prevented.

It’s the height of the summer and for many, July marks the beginning of travel season. It’s the time spent en route to vacation destinations that lead to concerns about “economy class syndrome,” a term used to describe leg symptoms that can occur as a result of long periods of immobility.

These extended periods of immobility can be associated with deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, a blood clot in the deep vein system. DVT can be cause for concern because the clot could break free from the vein wall and enter into the blood stream, traveling to the lungs and become a PE (pulmonary embolism), or to the brain and result in a stroke.

Though a familiar term to many, “economy class syndrome,” is actually a misnomer. DVT can occur in a plane, train or automobile, regardless of what class you’re sitting in. The point is that prolonged immobility can slow down circulation and lead to blood pooling in the legs, which significantly increases the risk of DVT.

Prevent DVT During Summer Travel

If you’re planning to go on a long flight (or road trip, for that matter), you can minimize the risk of DVT. First, stay hydrated. Then, make a point of walking in the aisles (or at the rest stop) occasionally. Finally, periodically do simple toe-tap exercises – that means tapping the feet for a minute or two, going back and forth between heels and toes. This “foot pump” squeezes the deep veins in the legs, forcing the blood to circulate.

By increasing mobility and making healthy blood flow a priority while you travel, you can help keep blood clots at bay this summer – and any time of year.

Are you at risk for DVT? Visit the Vein Healthcare Center to learn about the risks and steps toward prevention.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also offers more information about Deep Vein Thrombosis and its symptoms and risk factors.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shorter Workouts Could Be the Key to Fitness

Can a few minutes of strenuous exercise be enough to improve health and fitness? Scientist and journalists continue to focus interest on an abbreviated approach to exercise in an effort to find out whether brief stints at the gym are actually better for health than lengthy ones. The New York Times discusses their latest findings in the Rise of the Minimalist Workout.

Are you moving enough? If you have symptoms of venous disease, taking frequent walking breaks to avoid sitting or standing for periods of more than two hours can alleviate discomfort and help prevent the progression of symptoms. Find out what 10 Things You Can Do for Leg Pain Relief.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Varicose Veins? Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Summer

Seasonal Tips for Healthy Legs

Summer is the perfect time to make sure you are doing everything you can to relieve symptoms of varicose veins and other vein problems. Varicose veins can worsen during the summer months, so if vein issues are keeping you from enjoying summer activities, making leg vein health a priority can help you take full advantage of the season.

Relief & Prevention Tips for Healthy Veins

  • Stay as cool as possible. Heat dilates veins and causes pain and other symptoms to worsen.
  • Swim and walk. Both exercises pump the calf muscles and improve circulation. 
  • Wear graduated compression stockings. Wearing compression stockings all day will keep the legs feeling as good at the end of the day as in the morning.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Elevate the legs whenever possible.
  • Schedule an evaluation with a qualified phlebologist.
  • Wear graduated compression stockings. Wearing compression stockings all day will keep the legs feeling as good at the end of the day as in the morning.

Don’t Wait Until Summer’s Over to Seek Treatment for Vein Issues

The treatments for venous problems are the same during the summer as the rest of the year.

Find out more about vein treatment options and keeping legs healthy by reading Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen’s Self-conscious About Unsightly Veins? Tips for Relief in the Bangor Daily News and leave concerns about leg vein issues behind this summer!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father’s Day Facts: What Men Should Know About Veins

Father’s Day Cake by Mina Magiska Bakverk (My Magical Pastries), on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Mina Magiska Bakverk (My Magical Pastries) 

Women are more likely than men to have venous disease, including varicose veins and spider veins. But men are more likely to suffer from the worst vein problems, such as ulcers. Why is this the case?

One reason is that women tend to get help for their vein issues right away, while men will often wait until the problem becomes too painful to ignore. Leg wounds that won’t heal is often the result. Even men who are athletic are susceptible to venous disease.

Venous Disease is a Real Medical Issue

The important thing is to seek help for vein issues as soon as symptoms present themselves. For both men and women, venous disease is a medical issue, not a vanity issue. Conditions like varicose veins get worse with time, so the longer someone waits, the more extensive the condition—and the treatment.

A Venous Symptom Checklist – for Dad (& Grandad)

The key for men is to get evaluated as soon as they suspect there’s a problem. Symptoms of venous disease include:

  • Leg fatigue or heaviness – When legs feel good upon waking but are intensely tired or heavy at the end of the day, this is an early warning sign.
  • Swelling – Swelling can be caused by many things but also serves as a very early warning sign for vein problems. In any case, legs that frequently swell shouldn't be ignored.
  • Skin changes – Redness, skin thickening or other color changes on the legs and/or ankles is a common (and commonly overlooked) symptom. Other skin changes, such as dermatitis, cellulitis, dry or scaly skin, or brown “stains” on the skin can be signs of advanced venous disease, and should be evaluated by a physician.
  • Spider veins – Spider veins are blue or purple-colored veins that occur under the skin but are close enough to be seen on the surface. Treating them can improve appearance, as well as stop the progression of venous disease at its source.
  • Varicose veins – Another sign of early stage venous disease, varicose veins are visible veins in the leg that bulge, often protruding through the skin.
  • Ulcers – An open wound on the leg or ankle that fails to heal can be the result of ongoing venous disease. In fact, “venous stasis ulcers” in the leg are often an indication that venous disease has reached an advanced stage.

Venous disease is a progressive disease that is not curable, but for most people, even debilitating symptoms are completely treatable. Treatment can stop the progression of the disease and restore health and quality of life for both women and men, so everyone can enjoy many happy, healthy Father’s Days.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Keeping Legs Healthy “From Hips to Heels”

Maine Radio Show Addresses Leg Health 

Is it better to run barefoot?

Why are compression stockings a mainstay of care for pregnant women?

What is the source of plantar fasciitis? 

A recent episode of Maine Calling on MPBN focused on these and other questions about our lower half – from varicose veins to the causes of joint pain.

In our lifetime, it’s very likely we’ll be challenged by issues arising from our feet, legs, or hips. This month, Keith Shortall welcomed three physicians that specialize in these regions of the body. Join Keith, Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen, founder of the Vein Healthcare Center in South Portland, Dr. Brian McGrory of Maine Medical Partners Orthopedics, and Dr. Kenny Maisak of Portland Foot & Ankle to get some of the most common questions answered about the parts of the body charged with supporting us from below. Listen to the show.

Inside “Hips to Heels”: Expecting? Early intervention is the Key 

Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen
According to Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen, for women, it’s not the weight of late stage pregnancy that causes symptoms of venous disease – it’s the hormones of early pregnancy that cause damage to the vein walls and lead to venous insufficiency and varicose veins, something that can be treated with prescription compression stockings. Ironically, the first trimester is often when patients aren’t even being treated by a physician. “Prevention can start on day one,” said Dr. Asbjornsen. “Compression stockings are the mainstay of care for pregnant women.”

Dr. Asbjornsen also recommends persistence when it comes to treatment for leg and vein issues – sometimes primary care physicians are not as informed about the changes in the field of phlebology as they could be, nor are they knowledgeable about how straightforward and effective treatments can be. “This is an incredibly new field,” said Dr. Asbjornsen. “It has only come into existence in the last thirty years, and a lot of the modern treatments have only been around since the late 90s. For many physicians it’s hard to stay current.”

Learn more about Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spider Veins? Quick Tips for Coping

Spider vein is the common term for blue or purple-colored veins that occur under the skin but are close enough to be seen on the surface. They are similar to varicose veins but smaller, and like varicose veins, they can cause physical discomfort and be a source of embarrassment and self-consciousness, especially during the summer season.

If you have spider veins, some simple tips can help you feel better and help stop their progression.

4 Quick Tips for Coping with Spider Veins

1. Elevate your legs above your heart as often as possible— for as long as 30 minutes or as briefly as three minutes. The ideal time is after you have been standing for a long period or after a hot shower.

2. Sit properly. Focus on good posture and avoid crossing your legs, or sitting in ways that can compress veins for prolonged periods.
    3. Walk. Walking causes the rhythmic contraction of calf muscles and helps promote blood flow to the heart. Just 30 minutes every day—all at once, or in shorter increments.
    4. Contact a board certified phlebologist for an evaluation. In the past, treatment for spider veins has been considered merely cosmetic, but they can be the tip of the iceberg.

    Coping with spider veins? 
    You've got options. Find out more about venous disease and its treatment, or contact the Vein Healthcare Center to schedule an appointment to get started with your vein care.  

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Spider Veins: Appearance or Something More?

    Tiny, Web-Shaped Veins Could Be a Symptom of Venous Disease

    Telangiectasia is the technical term, but most people know them as “spider veins.” The tiny red-, blue- or purple-colored veins occur just below the skin but are close enough to be seen on the surface. They may appear as short fine lines, clusters, or in a spider web shape.

    Treating spider veins can improve appearance, and that can be a tremendous advantage for those struggling with them. But spider veins can also be an indication of early stage venous disease; treating them not only can improve appearance, but can also help stop the progression of venous disease at its source.

    Are Your Spider Veins a Symptom of Venous Disease?

    Vein health is a continuum, so while spider veins may appear minimal, there could be a larger vein ‘leaking’ underneath.

    A basic understanding of how veins work can help one understand what causes disorders like spider veins. Veins carry blood from the legs and arms back to the heart. The blood in the legs travels up against gravity, so when the valves in the veins become damaged, blood “leaks” back into the legs and creates a “pooling” effect.

    Treatment – For Your Overall Health

    Effective treatment of spider veins begins with a thorough evaluation from a qualified phlebologist who will look for the source of the problem: the leaky valve or valves. An ultrasound is the best way to accurately determine the problem. Then, the physician can recommend the appropriate procedure or therapy.

    Sclerotherapy is frequently used to treat spider veins. In this procedure, small needles provide access to the vein so that a sclerosing agent can be injected into the vein's interior wall. This substance causes the vein to become sticky and seal shut, allowing it to disappear. Blood then finds a healthy path back to the heart.

    While these effective forms of treatment can be the solution to better looking legs, it's important to remember that they can be part of maintaining good health as well. You can learn more about spider veins and their treatment at The American College of Phlebology, where you can read about Vein Conditions and Treatment including information about sclerotherapy and other forms of treatment. You can also get the answers to common questions about vein disorders at the Vein Healthcare Center and request an appointment with a board certified phlebologist.

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    For Moms-to-Be, Varicose Veins Are Common – And Treatable

    Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate being a mom whether you already have a family or yours is just beginning. It’s a perfect time to celebrate good health as well. If you are pregnant, being an expectant mom can be full of surprises. Some of them, like the appearance of varicose veins, just aren’t welcome.

    About 40% of pregnant women will develop varicose veins.  Hormone surges are part of the biological process of pregnancy, and varicose veins are sometimes part of that process. Varicose veins tend to run in the family as well. Expectant mothers might ask their own moms or other women in their family if they had vein issues during or after their pregnancies

    Pregnancy & Vein Health: What You Should Know
    Varicose Veins

    First Trimester: The first trimester is an especially important time to think about vein health. Women with known risk factors for venous disease should consider wearing compression stockings throughout the first three months of pregnancy and possibly longer. Specially designed maternity graduated compression stockings are available with a doctor’s prescription or at many maternity stores – check with your doctor before you purchase.

    Second & Third Trimester: While the most damage seems to happen in the first trimester, the second and third trimester may also carry some risk of developing varicose veins. The volume of blood in a healthy woman increases to about 50% more than before the pregnancy, with the largest increase in the second trimester. With more volume to move, all of the blood vessels are under increased stress. In this final trimester, the uterus continues to expand and put pressure on the veins in the abdominal region.

    Varicose Vein Prevention For Moms-to-Be 

    Paying attention to vein health can go a long way toward treating, and even preventing varicose veins for mother-to-be. There are several ways to decrease or prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:

    • Wear graduated compression stockings, especially in the first trimester.
    • Exercise often—even a brisk walk will help circulation and reduce symptoms.
    • Frequently pump the foot (heel to toe), even if on bed rest.
    • Avoid tight clothes or high-heeled shoes.
    • Gain only as much weight as recommended by the obstetrician.
    • Take a pre-natal vitamin daily.

    Many women find that their varicose veins go away a few months after labor, while
    others continue to suffer with them. There are many options available to treat varicose veins. You can find out more about varicose veins and their treatment at the Vein Healthcare Center. Happy Mother’s Day & happy vein health!

    What are Varicose Veins?

    Varicose veins are visible veins in the leg that bulge, often protruding through the skin. They are the result of venous insufficiency: blood that pools in the vein because of a faulty valve and causes the protrusion.

    Varicose veins are a symptom of early stage venous disease. They affect approximately half of the U.S. population, and in addition to causing pain and discomfort, those with varicose veins struggle unnecessarily with their appearance.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Meet Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen

    Providing Patient Care in a Changing Field

    When Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen began her practice, she was entering into a new and growing sector of medicine.  “It was truly a dream of mine to provide great service, to do quality research, to contribute to the field of phlebology, and to provide education to other physicians. It’s becoming reality as I speak,” Asbjornsen told about the opening of The Vein Healthcare Center almost a year ago.

    The interview was conducted as part of a spotlight on entrepreneurial women working in the state of Maine. According to the piece, Asbjornsen was working at another vein center in the Portland area, but realized that she wanted to be able to spend more of her time doing research, quantifying data, and helping to train new practitioners in the field.

    By establishing The Vein Healthcare Center in South Portland, Maine, where she treats all aspects of vein health for patients in all stages of venous disease, Dr. Asbjornsen not only helps to welcome a new era of health care in the field of Phlebology, but is making her own contribution through research and efforts to help increase public awareness about vein disorders.

    Read the interview with Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen.

    The Vein Healthcare Center – Serving Local Communities

    When Dr. Asbjornsen opened the The Vein Healthcare Center, her goal was to provide patients, physicians, and the general public with an exceptional resource for medical treatment by a leading vein specialist. Dr. Asbjornsen is a nationally recognized vein specialist, member of the American College of Phlebology, and a board certified phlebologist. She received specialty training from leading phlebologists, and provides treatments that include ambulatory phlebectomy, sclerotherapy, endovenous ablation techniques, laser treatment, ultrasound evaluations, and radiofrequency closures. Such therapies are a far cry from the treatments of yesterday, when “vein stripping” was the considered the standard of care, and many patients' symptoms were left untreated.

    As part of Dr. Asbjornsen’s dedication to advancing the standard of care in venous disease and treatment, she is helping a new population living with the symptoms and complications of all stages of venous disease live a fuller, healthier, more comfortable life. Her message to those suffering with the challenges of venous disease is that patients can benefit from today’s minimally-invasive therapies with very little pain and outstanding success rates when performed by an experienced, board certified phlebologist. By serving communities in Maine and New Hampshire in her practice, she has seen her dream realized and has helped many individuals in the process.

    You can contact The Vein Healthcare Center for more information about treatment, or to find out about informational seminars for the public sponsored by the center. You can also get started with your own vein care now by making an appointment.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    Dr. Helane Fronek: Leader in the Field of Phlebology

    Celebrating the Pioneers of Vein Health 

    During the month of March, we celebrated the historic achievements and contributions of women whose roles ranged from suffragists to entrepreneurs. This month, in keeping with the salute to women, we celebrate those who contributed and continue to contribute to the development of Phlebology as a medical specialty.

    The U.S. has one of the highest incidences of venous disease in the world. Because of the widespread nature of its symptoms, it is considered a significant public health issue. Historically, venous symptoms were often left untreated. This was due to poor levels of public awareness, the lack of quality treatment options and discouraging outcomes. Today, public understanding of venous disease is on the rise. Injection therapies such as sclerotherapy, surface laser treatments, and other non-invasive closure procedures including EVLA have become the gold standard of care, and these innovative forms of treatment have transformed the way the medical community views diagnosis and treatment of venous disorders.

    Leading the Way In Vein Care

    Helane Fronek MD, FACP, FACPh entered the field of phlebology in 1985 and has been an integral part of its development. As part of her work in the field, she served as the Director of the Varicose Vein Clinic at Scripps Clinic, where she provided cutting edge treatment for the entire spectrum of superficial venous disorders and conducted research on venous leg ulceration, compression therapy, and emerging therapies for varicose veins. She is past president of the American College of Phlebology, the largest medical organization devoted to vein care.

    Dr. Fronek was the first recipient of the American College of Phlebology’s prestigious Leadership Award, and she is well known for authoring The Fundamentals of Phlebology, a medical textbook used by most Phlebologists entering the field. She is a respected speaker and educator in all aspects of diagnosis and treatment for venous disease and communication in the medical arena.

    While Dr. Fronek continues her work as a vein specialist, she has extended her contribution to those in
    the medical field as a coach and consultant to physicians. As a coach and consultant, she focuses on aspects including maintaining balance, finding professional fulfillment, and enhancing communication skills. She states on her blog:
    “My desire to help [physicians] recapture the love of medicine that made them want to become doctors is what drew me to the field of coaching. Coaching is extremely effective in helping physicians discover what aspects of their practice and their life no longer work well for them, and how to make the shifts that will align their life with their true values and goals. Being a part of my clients’ transformations is gratifying and inspiring.”
    You can read more about Dr. Helane Fronek, or read about her Coaching and Consulting for Physicians.

    If You Are a Primary Care Physician, Venous Disease Affects Your Patients

    It is estimated that 80 million Americans have some form of venous disease. If you are a primary physician, it is very likely that you are treating patients who are experiencing symptoms of this disease. Read the latest issue of Vein Health News and subscribe to be sure you have the latest information about the impact of venous disease symptoms and its available treatment options.

    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    DVT Awareness: Reality Check

    Mortality Rates For Blood Clots Are Startling. But How Focused Are We On Awareness?  

    In the past decade, breast cancer awareness campaigns have grown to include their own merchandise and
    even a signature color. The general public seems highly educated about this issue and that’s a good thing. But did you know that the number of deaths from blood clots in the U.S. exceeds the number of deaths from what we consider some our biggest killers?

    Studies show that in the United States and United Kingdom, VTEs (Venous Thromboembolisms) kill more people than AIDS, breast cancer, prostate cancer and traffic accidents combined. A study by the Mayo Clinic estimates that more than one thousand Mainers die as a result of blood clots every year (a figure that is likely on the low side).

    According to recent federal research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it is estimated that venous thromboembolism (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms collectively) costs the U.S. hospital system more than $340 million per year.

    Our Efforts Are Making a Difference

    • In 2003, more than 50 organizations assembled in Washington, DC, to discuss the need to make DVT a national public health priority. This gathering resulted in the establishment of the Coalition to Prevent DVT, which declared March as DVT Awareness Month. Their efforts included encouraging DVT screenings, producing an educational video with mobility tips and exercises, and customizing an RV to visit hospitals and communities across the country. 
    • Here in Maine, then-Governor John Baldacci, proclaimed November 2008 as “Thrombosis Awareness Month" in the state.  
    • The mission of the National Blood Clot Association (NBCA), also founded in 2003, is to educate people about the danger, prevention, and treatment of blood clots and clotting disorders, and DVT awareness is a cornerstone of its work.
    • In 2009, the NBCA received two program grants totaling $2.6 million over five years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These funds support programs directed at curbing the devastating effects caused each year to over 350,000 Americans who develop a blood clot. 

    Because of the efforts of these and other patient-led and professional advocacy groups, public awareness of DVT and blood clots is increasing, but it hasn’t yet reached the level of ubiquity that breast cancer awareness has.

    Learn More About DVT Prevention 

    If you are a patient, ask your physician about DVT prevention, or make an appointment with a vein specialist to learn about your risk and prevention techniques. Or, find out more from the following online resources: – from The National Blood Clot Alliance – created by Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis – from The CHEST Foundation of the ACCP – information about women and DVT

    Are you a Physician?

    Primary care doctors are on the front lines of reducing the growing number of people suffering with symptoms of venous disease.  Vein Health News serves as a resource for well-researched meaningful information that you can pass on to your patients.

    Have Vein Health News delivered to your office. Subscribe to Vein Health News or view the current issue.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Blood Clots Can Strike Long-distance Travelers, Patients on Bed Rest

    Phlebologist Shares Prevention Techniques to Prevent Deadly Clots  

    Deep vein thrombosis affects approximately 2 million Americans every year. What can you do to prevent DVT?

    “The goals are to prevent the blood clot from getting bigger and breaking loose and to reduce the chances of another clot,” said Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen.

    Dr. Asbjornsen is a nationally recognized vein specialist, member of the American College of Phlebology, and a board certified Phlebologist. She is the founder of the Vein Healthcare Center in South Portland and the Maine Phlebology Association. This month, which is DVT Awareness Month, Dr. Asbjornsen shared prevention techniques with the Bangor Daily News.

    Recommendations include moving as soon as possible after an illness or injury, getting up to walk during travel or periods of sitting for more than four hours, and pumping your feet during times when you are on bed rest. Read more Dangerous Blood Clots Can Strike.

    DVT is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care but it can be prevented. Find out more about DVT

    DVT Dangers: Are You At Risk of a Blood Clot?

    March is DVT Awareness Month, A Time to Learn About Your Risk

    Two million Americans suffer from blood clots every year. In fact, more Americans die of DVT and PE each year than die from breast cancer, AIDS and automobile accidents combined. But what is it and why is it so dangerous?

    What is DVT? 

    Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a blood clot in the deep vein system. The danger of DVT is that the clot could break free from the vein wall and enter into the blood stream. The clot could then travel to the lungs and become a PE (pulmonary embolism), or to the brain and result in a stroke. DVT-related PE is the leading cause of preventable death in U.S. hospitals. Learn more about how DVT and PE put your health at risk.

    Who’s at Risk? 

    Many factors contribute to DVT risk, including age, inherited blood clotting disorders, certain medications, or vein injuries. Sitting in a confined space or traveling for long periods can also increase the risk of DVT. There are a number of risk assessment quizzes available online at sites such as and

    What are the Symptoms?

    In most cases, the affected area— usually in the leg— will be painful, swollen or tender, with a redness or discoloration of the skin. Even a muscle cramp that feels especially sharp and painful can be an indication of DVT. DVT is a medical emergency, so any symptoms should be regarded as a DVT until proven otherwise, especially if someone is in a risk category. About half of the time, DVT has no symptoms at all.

    DVT Awareness Month: Learn About Your Risk In March

    March is DVT Awareness Month, The perfect time for everyone to find out their level of risk, and talk to someone on their medical team, especially if they’re in a high-risk group.

    Find out more about yours DVT Risk Factors, symptoms and ways to prevent DVT at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Do you have questions about DVT, venous disease and its treatment? Find out more by visiting Vein Healthcare Center.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Welcome to @VHC

    Vein Healthcare CenterWelcome to @VHC, where we’ll be sharing the latest information about the Vein Healthcare Center, treatments and trends in vein care, developments in phlebology, and more. And since we’re based in Maine, we’ll also discuss our favorite topic: quality of life.

    Consider this an open invitation to join the conversation, ask a question, or share your opinion. Just email, or call (207) 221-7799.